Chapter VI. The Appeal to Tom
 

"Well, what does this mean?" asked Mr. Foger in indignant tones, as he faced the custom officer and Tom and Ned. "What do you mean by coming to my house at this hour, and disturbing me? I demand an answer!"

"And you shall have it," replied Mr. Whitford calmly. He was used to dealing with "indignant" persons, who got very much on their dignity when accused of smuggling. "We are here, Mr. Foger, because of certain information we have received, and we must ask you to submit to some questions, and allow your house to be searched."

"What! You question me? Search this house? That is an indignity to which I will not submit!"

"You will have to, Mr. Foger. I have ample authority for what I am doing, and I am backed by the most powerful government in the world. I also have plenty of help with me."

Mr. Whitford blew his whistle, and at once his several deputies came running up.

"You see I am well prepared to meet force with force, Mr. Foger," said the chief agent, calmly.

"Force! What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean that I have certain information against you. There has been smuggling going on from Canada into the United States."

"Canada? What have I to do with Canada?"

"You don't live far from there," said Mr. Whitford significantly. "Airships have been used. Your son has one, but I don't believe that figured in the game. But two friends of mine saw something to-night that made me decide on this raid. Tom and Ned, tell Mr. Foger what you saw."

The agent stepped back, so that the two lads could be seen. There was another gasp of surprise, this time from Andy Foger, who had remained in the background.

"Tom Swift!" gasped the bully.

"Tell them what you saw. Tom," went on the agent, and Tom and Ned by turns, relayed the incident of the wagon load of goods driving away from the gardener's house.

"This, with what has gone before, made us suspicious," said Mr. Whitford. "So we decided on a raid. If you are not willing to let us in peaceably, we will come by force."

"By all means come in!" was the unexpected reply of Mr. Foger, as he stepped back, and opened wider the door. "Andy, these are some friends of yours, are they not?"

"Friends? I guess not!" exclaimed Andy with a sneer. "I won't even speak to them."

"Not much lost," commented Tom with a laugh.

"Search the house!" ordered Mr. Whitford sharply.

"I'll show you around," offered Mr. Foger.

"We can find our way," was the curt rejoinder of the chief agent.

"The place is deserted," went on Mr. Foger. "My son and I are just living here until certain repairs are made, when I am going to make another effort to sell it."

"Yes, we knew it was being repaired, and that your son was staying here," said Mr. Whitford, "But we did not expect to see you."

"I--er--that is--I came on unexpectedly," said Mr. Foger. "You may look about all you wish. You will find nothing wrong here."

And they did not, strange to say. There was considerable litter in many of the rooms, and in one was Andy's airship in parts. Clearly work was being done on that, and Mr. Dillon's story was confirmed, for tools, with his initials burned in the handles, were lying about.

The custom men, with Tom and Ned, went all over the house. Andy scowled blackly at our hero, but said nothing. Mr. Foger seemed anxious to show everything, and let the men go where they would. Finally a tour of the house had been completed, and nothing of a suspicious nature was found.

"I guess we'll just take a look at the roof, and see that airship platform your son is going to use," said Mr. Whitford, in rather disappointed tones, when he had found nothing.

"It isn't started yet," said Andy.

But they all went up through a scuttle, nevertheless, and saw where some posts had been made fast to the roof, to provide a platform foundation.

"I'll beat you all to pieces when I get flying," said the bully to Tom, as they went down the scuttle again.

"I'm not in the racing game any more," replied Tom coldly. "Besides I only race with my friends."

"Huh! Afraid of getting beat!" sneered Andy.

"Well. I guess there's nothing here," said Mr. Whitford to Mr. Foger, as they stood together in the front room.

"No, I knew you'd find nothing, and you have had your trouble for your pains."

"Oh, Uncle Sam doesn't mind trouble."

"And you have caused me much annoyance!" said Mr. Foger sharply.

"I'm afraid we'll have to cause you more," was the agent's comment. "I want to have a look in the gardener's house, from where Tom Swift saw the load going away."

"There is nothing there!" declared Mr. Foger quickly. "That is, nothing but some old furniture. I sold a lot of it, and I suppose the man who bought it came for it to-night."

"We'll take a look," repeated the agent, "I am very fond of old furniture."

"Very well," responded the bully's father, as he eyed Tom and Ned blackly.

He led the way out of the house, and soon they stood before the small cottage. It was dark, and when Mr. Foger unlocked the door he turned on the gas, and lighted it.

"I left the gas on until all the furniture should be taken out," he explained. "But you will find nothing here."

It needed but a glance about the place to show that only some odds and ends of furniture was all that it contained.

"Where does this door lead to," asked Mr. Whitford, when he had made a tour of the place.

"Nowhere. Oh, that is only down into the cellar." was the reply. "There is nothing there."

"We can't take anything for granted," went on the agent with a smile. "I'll take a look down there."

He descended with some of his men. Tom and Ned remained in the kitchen of the cottage, while Andy and his father conversed in low tones, occasionally casting glances at our heroes. Once Tom thought Mr. Foger looked apprehensively toward the door, through which the custom men had descended. He also appeared to be anxiously listening.

But when Mr. Whitford came back, with a disappointed look on his face, and said there was nothing to be found, Mr. Foger smiled:

"What did I tell you?" he asked triumphantly.

"Never mind," was the retort of Uncle Sam's man. "We are not through with Shopton yet."

"I'm sorry we gave you so much trouble on a false clew," said Tom, as he and Ned left the Foger premises with Mr. Whitford, the other deputies following.

"That's all right, Tom. We have to follow many false clews. I'm much obliged to you. Either we were on the wrong track, or the Fogers are more clever than I gave them credit for. But I am not done yet. I have something to propose to you. It has come to me in the last few minutes. I saw you in your airship once, and I know you know how to manage such craft. Now there is no question in my mind but what the smugglers are using airships. Tom, will you undertake a mission for Uncle Sam?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean will you go to the border, in your airship, and try to catch the smugglers? I can promise you a big reward, and much fame if we catch them. An airship is just what is needed. You are the one to do it. Will you?"